Past and future No.1’s face off in the Miami Open in what should be fascinating encounter. Naomi Osaka can further prove she is back on the way to her best while Iga Swiatek would be able to cap off her coronation as No. 1 by completing the Sunshine Double. On the women’s side, only, Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka have achieved this goal.
Swiatek toughed out a straight sets victory against Jessica Pegula to make it sixteen wins in a row. That includes ten top 30 wins across three WTA 1000 events so she is dominating against strong opposition during this streak too. She is yet to drop a set in Miami and showed few signs of faltering during the evening of her latest win.
Backed by a massive 18 aces, Osaka finally figured out Belinda Bencic to beat the Swiss 4-6 6-3 6-4. It was her biggest test so far and is testament to her toughness on this occasion that she achieved the comeback after her route to this stage was a fairly stress free one. “I was thinking I have been in this position with her before, because I have played her multiple times,” she said. “But I felt like all those times I have kind of been panicked. I was just telling myself, ‘This is a really good chance to show yourself how much you have matured.. Just try not to repeat the mistakes that you have made before.”
Osaka appears to be in a much better frame of mind this fortnight than the player who has taken to the court many times over the last few years. This matchup right now is amongst the best possible on this surface – Swiatek is undoubtedly the most in-form player on hard courts while Osaka has the highest peak on this surface as showcased by her four slams.
Both women have five match winning streaks in finals so it is unlikely either will shy away from an occasion in which they have previously thrived. Swiatek has dealt well with the power players during her run and especially exposed the ones with lesser variety. Osaka is going to need to switch things up and should take a lot from her win against Bencic in the prior round – an opponent who has always troubled her in the past. The Japanese star will hope to overwhelm her opponent but that will have to begin with her serve. Osaka is serving lights out and any win may need to see her hit 10+ aces for the third match running.
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in three sets